Forza Horizon 5

You’ve made what many agree is the greatest game for car lovers ever in Forza Horizon 4, so how do you follow it up? Cry “Bigger! Harder! Faster! More!” and kick everybody’s socks off to the kerb with Forza Horizon 5.

Want the short version? This is the best car game we’ve ever played, and a serious contender for game of the year. For a longer look, read on!

With the romp around a stylised Britain that was Forza Horizon 4, the clever folk at Playground Games had basically perfected the open world racing game meets car porn extravaganza, especially via post-release DLC and regular updates. Looking at their Series X updates it would be hard to imagine that they had any sort of room to improve things, yet they’ve pulled it off.

Punch buggy blue!

There are two main options for graphics modes, ‘Quality’ and ‘Performance’. The former delivers top-level graphics at 30 frames per second, while the latter dials things down only slightly for just-waxed smooth 60 FPS vision. In honesty, the differences are negligible save for added “pop-in” – especially when you’re fanging about the Mexican countryside at the sort of speed that would see your license permanently revoked in any form of real world, or get stuck in the middle of any of the new dynamic weather systems such as a hurricane or sand storm – crazy!

Ah yes, Mexico. While car fans the world over hoped against hope for a trip to the spiritual home of a certain top type of car culture, Japan, Playground’s explanation for choosing south of the US border makes sense; it offered scope for everything from extremes of weather to extremes of scenery, and by far the biggest Forza Horizon map yet. Blat about long enough and you’ll go from sunny beaches to rainforests to idyllic towns to an actual active volcano. Seriously! There’s that old saying “variety is the spice of life”, and Forza Horizon 5 certainly brings the spiciness.

Punch buggy red!

So, the setting makes for all manner of different settings for challenges, but to be honest much of it doesn’t look particularly different to the past two entries – yes, including Australia. Again, when you’re fanging… etc.

Forza Horizon 5

One of the first places where you notice that Forza Horizon 5 really lifts its game is in how you tackle its various tasks. As we’ve now come to expect, there’s an almost overwhelming array of challenges that can be taken on, the majority of which are unlocked fairly quickly if you hit up the various ‘Adventure’ modes. These are opened up via earning in-game ‘Accolades’ – some 1800-plus of them. Basically, pretty much no matter what you do, be it collecting stuff, taking on racing challenges or just organically uncovering things from exploring, you’ll accrue these Accolade points. There are six festival sites to unlock, covering everything from cross country to the now officially sanctioned street racing. Each one culminates in a big challenge, such as 20-minute race through the majority of the map. To think, those Bathurst guys hold it together at full pelt for much longer stints than that. Legends!

Punch buggy cream!

These new tasks are joined by fun story adventures, and all the classic impromptu racing that we’ve become accustomed to. Those of a collecting bent get a whole new range of barn finds to uncover, plus those ‘Fast Travel’ (hint: buy the Buenas Vistas house ASAP to unlock this indispensable functionality) and XP boards, including, as we’ve come to expect, the odd total head scratcher – like the one that’s some 100 feet above ground in a power pylon – grr! Basically, if you get bored in your first 100 hours or so then you’re not doing it right – there’s just so much content here.

This, as you’d hope, includes cars and plenty of ’em. Forza Horizon 5 ships with 526 vehicles available, with a whole lot more promised. It’s the biggest initial number yet, which you can collect variously via winning certain events, nabbing them in wheel spins (along with stupid emotes, horns and bits of clobber – although we guess some people must like this stuff) or going old school and buying them outright or winning them at auction. From the game’s flagship Merc and Bronco right down to a humble old Datsun, there’s something for everybody, including several classic favourites. A Hoonigan Cosworth Escort is unlocked early on, and we highly recommend that as a fanging about workhorse – it’s a hoot to drive, great on or off the roads, and perfect for driving “as the crow flies” from event to event.

Punch buggy brown!

Forza Horizon 5

One more thing on cars, as you may have gathered by now thanks to our regular “punch buggy” interjections – and if you do partake of that classic road trip game while experiencing Forza Horizon 5 in company then there are going to be a whole lot of sore arms – the humble Volkswagen Beetle features heavily. The ‘Vocho’ as it’s affectionately known in Mexico is a key component of their car culture, in fact the classic WWII shape was still made there up until July, 2003.

Punch buggy rusty!

We’ve touched upon just some of what to expect, but there’s a lot more to uncover. From streamlined menu systems that almost make sense (a vast improvement on previous catacombs of confusion) to the sort of magnificent accessibility options that throw down the gauntlet for all-comers in future – from colour blind modes down to an upcoming onscreen signer option – there’s always more to discover. Including vastly improved engine sounds, and…

And we haven’t even mentioned multiplayer yet! You can join a ‘Convoy’ (good buddy!) and hang out taking on various challenges, like fun ‘Arcade’ mode games – including bashing seven shades of *ahem* out of piñatas. There are also classic one-on-one challenges, as well as new ‘Playground Games’ (subtle!) which deliver fun king of the hill, infected and flag rush modes. Then there are user-created challenges via ‘Eventlab’, which offer up an almost endless array of possibilities for those who wish to play, or for those who wish to create and share.

We could go on and we won’t, because we want to get back to playing. Whether you pick it up for ten minutes of fleeting fun or pull an all-nighter, Forza Horizon 5 delivers on everything a car nut could want in an open world racer by honing what was learned from the third and fourth games in the series. It’s hard to improve on perfection, but those cluey types at Playground have pulled it off. Roll on Forza Horizon 6 – in Japan, yeah?

Punch buggy gold!

Forza Horizon 5 is available now on Xbox.

Buy now at JB Hi-Fi